Film

Genre Defining Cinema: Halloween Horror

Writer | Jacob Jewitt-Jalland

Michael Myers comes home

I am the last to leave the still-darkened cinema whilst checking behind the empty seats. I am walking the deserted streets and watching the shadows for his shape. I am tucked up and warm in bed, but I am sure he is just outside the window, watching me and waiting. I can hear the faint music as I fall asleep. Michael Myers has come home.

Almost forty years after its initial release and eight personal viewings, Halloween still holds up as one of the most terrifying pieces of horror cinema in history. Easily outstripping expensive, shiny, modern horror, despite its shoestring budget (for example, the killer wears a William Shatner mask spray-painted white), Halloween simply strips away the flabby overproduction we see today and dispenses with the political metaphors of much of the horror cinema of the time. The plot is basic: a madman breaks out of a mental hospital to murder babysitters on the night of Halloween. We are all too familiar with the template. It is this one-dimensional plot that makes the film all the more unnerving though. Undistracted by subplots and love-interests, all we can do is desperately scour the shadows for the relentless and seemingly motiveless killer. Halloween is somewhat basic for the modern day viewer, but incredibly scary.

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Beautifully choreographed terror is difficult to come by. Where much cinematic horror nowadays is derived from shocking jump-scares and heavy-handed cuts (no pun intended), the opening tracking shot of Halloween, that places the audience directly behind the mask of a stalking killer, is unrivalled as a piece of terrifying voyeurism. We feel a wave of blood-drenched dread flood over us as we are taken around and through the house of the victim, peeping through the windows and hiding in the shadows. We are involved in the fear, creating a brand of terror few other films, not for the lack of trying, have succeeded in emulating.

Halloween may look like a dated film, especially in the wake of the unending shoddy sequels that substitute schlock for shock, but these films have had only the effect of strengthening Halloween’s legacy. Forty years later and Halloween is still more frightening in its title sequence than most horror films are throughout. From the moment the credits roll and perhaps for the rest of your life, whenever you lie awake in the dark hearing that creaking floorboard down the hall you had not noticed before, realising just how little you can see out of the window at night, or wondering just why that back door is hanging slightly ajar, you will be praying that Myers is just make believe.

 

This article was published in our September 2016 issue.

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